Well, ladies and gentlemen — we made it! We made it through the long, lonely, painful football-desert, known as the offseason. Ok, it has been only six days since the NFL ended, and not the usual six months, but still — we made it.
Let’s get serious and talk about this new football league that starts Saturday, February 9th. To quote the Alliance’s own website, the league was “founded by TV and film producer Charlie Ebersol and Hall of Famer Bill Polian, The Alliance features eight teams, under a single entity structure” (meaning, there are no divisions or conferences). This is a 10-game season, played over 12 weeks. Notable coaching names include; Mike Singletary (Memphis Express), Steve Spurrier and his visor, presumably (Orlando Apollos), Mike Martz (San Diego Fleet), Rick Neuheisel (Arizona Hotshots), Mike Riley (San Antonio Commanders), and Dennis Erickson (Salt Lake Stallions). As you can see, there is some real coaching experience in the Alliance. The extent of their motivation and preparation? Like most other factors in this league at the moment, we just…don’t…know.
There are some minimal — albeit significant — rule changes to traditional football enacted by the AAF. They’ve eliminated the kicking game outside of field goal attempts, which will change the relative importance of “key numbers” that we are used to as bettors. There’s no extra point — teams must go for two after TDs — so immediately seven loses its value, as six and eight gain proportionally. I believe this will have the effect of also decreasing the importance of the most key number of them all: three. With totals in the four games this weekend averaging 50.75, a single FG already loses its relative value (when more points are scored, a single score is less impactive). Combined with the mandatory two-point conversion attempt rule, and other rules changes that should promote higher scoring being upheld by the Skyjudge, the number three becomes diluted, as scoring deltas can land on two, four, five, and eight much more often than in the NCAA or NFL.
I want to express my outright enthusiasm for betting on a brand new league. The truth of the matter is, nobody knows anything about these teams relative to each other yet. Not even the coaches or players. They may think they have an idea based on the limited scrimmages (preseason) against each other, but unless they know what the opposing coaching staffs were trying to accomplish in the ‘games’ there’s no way to gauge their relative competitiveness. That presents us with massive opportunity! If I can consistently hit 55-56% ATS in the NFL — the sharpest betting market in the world — I am confident that I can gain a more significant edge in the AAF market, and pass that along to y’all!
This first week, I want to emphasize the ‘nobody knows anything’ aspect of this market, but I do have a couple of opinions for you to bet ‘pizza money’ on. I don’t yet have team power rankings, but I have a few leans on this weekend’s inaugural slate.
Memphis/Birmingham Under 50.0
I don’t have much faith in either of these head coaches to allow/empower their (underwhelming) QBs to play ‘Canadian Football’ as “Gridiron Genius” author Michael Lombardi calls it when offenses are playing ‘ahead of schedule’ by converting first downs in only two downs. Nor do I see either coach being particularly aggressive when it comes trying to extend possessions on fourth down. Of course, I could be woefully wrong, but that comes with the territory of trying to forecast a brand new league.
San Diego/San Antonio Over 50.5
I believe Mike Martz and Mike Riley will have their QBs prepared and able to execute in game one. I like both Logan Woodside (holds every record ever at Toledo) and what Martz may be able to do with USC-hail-Mary-killer, Mike Bercovici. The last time the two faced each other, the game went for 88 points total, in a win for Martz’s Rams over Riley’s Chargers in the 2000 season.
In the same game, I would take The Fleet and the two points at BetOnline, or 2.5 at MyBookie.
Next week I will debut some real power ratings, derived from an algorithm that will include Week 1 statistics, college statistics, NFL preseason stats, and even recruiting rankings. With 10% of the season completed this weekend, we will have to be aggressive, but as analytical as possible in seeking an edge. Play those three above this week, and then let’s get ready to do some damage next week!